Older Blind Program Funded, Service Animal Protections Ignored

Both good news and bad news from Helena over the last month. The National Federation of the Blind Montana Affiliate, the Montana Association for the Blind and other organizations working together called on our representatives to pass several bills in the house of representatives.

The Older Blind Individuals Program, which provides services such as orientation and mobility training and helps aging blind/low-vision Montanans acquire assistive devices, has been woefully underfunded for many years. The state funds allotted for this program of $25,000, though matched federally, have not been adjusted for need or rising costs in years. This lack of funding has led to a lack of staffing and resources, leaving many Montanans with no services at all.

The house approved a $100,000 increase to the program, bringing its total contribution to $125,000. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide an additional $50,000, bringing the total to the initially requested $175,000.

Though we are thrilled at this success, the Montana legislature failed to pass a bill that would make harming a service animal a misdemeanor under Montana law.

Additionally, the Montana Enterprise Program which provides startup funding for blind/low vision Montanans who wish to engage in a vending business,was not approved for a requested funding increase. The funds for this program have not been adjusted for many years

-Posted by Reggie Herbert on 3/16/23

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